Today marks the beginning of service at the Charter Oak. It’s the second restaurant from chef Christopher Kostow, best known for his three-Michelin-starred, ultra-expensive wine country tasting menu temple, the Restaurant at Meadwood, and this time he’s going casual. Or, his version of casual.
“In thinking about this project, we asked ourselves, why not eschew the idea of casual and instead focus on the simple, essential, and elemental,” Kostow told Eater back in January. It’s easily the biggest opening of the summer, and one of the most anticipated openings nationwide this year. Here now, Eater will answer all your questions about this eagerly awaited new arrival.
What is the Charter Oak?
The Charter Oak is a 100-seat restaurant in St. Helena, California (in Napa County, peak wine country). It opens for lunch and dinner today, June 5, with plans to serve brunch come the weekend.
Who runs the Charter Oak?
Christopher Kostow, as discussed above, and his business partner from the Restaurant at Meadowood, Nathaniel Dorn, own the Charter Oak. Chef Katianna Hong, longtime Meadowood chef de cuisine, is taking lead in the radically open kitchen.
So what’s the deal?
As Eater SF put it, at the Charter Oak, “keeping it simple is the challenge.” “[T]he idea is to be simple, a difficult feat for chefs who are accustomed to adding 20 steps to a two-ingredient dish and plating with tweezers,” writes ESF editor Ellen Fort. “Despite its Michelin pedigree, Charter Oak is meant to be welcoming and approachable — a boon to the community where industry folk and locals intermingle with discerning culinary travelers.”
The look is cozy-sophisticated, with wood floors, rugs, and exposed brick walls.
Hong told Eater SF that dishes are meant to be eaten family-style, and she calls the dining experience “dim sum–esque.” Individual portions are available, and the menu has three basic categories: Starters, mids, and mains. This being team Meadowood, there is a set menu available, in which Hong crafts a meal for the table of off-menu specials.
But what about the food?
The star of the kitchen — and therefore the star of the menu — is the totally on-trend wood-fired hearth. All the mains come from the hearth, and wood- and smoke-graced flavors wind their way throughout the various dishes.
- Vegetables from the farm, fermented soy dip Courtesy of The Charter Oak, Photography by Kelly Puleio
- Grilled avocado, rhubarb, ember oil, mayo Courtesy of The Charter Oak, Photography by Kelly Puleio
- Little gem lettuces, bagna cauda of dried albacore, lovage cream Courtesy of The Charter Oak, Photography by Kelly Puleio
- Onions, beef shanks, sauce of grilled herbs Courtesy of The Charter Oak, Photography by Kelly Puleio
- Salad of broccolis, chois, puffed grains, and ricotta Courtesy of The Charter Oak, Photography by Kelly Puleio
Diners familiar with the Restaurant at Meadowood know about its culinary garden, which provides produce to the upscale kitchen. The Charter Oak will use vegetables from the culinary garden, too — Hong will be finding use for the produce deemed not perfectly colored or sized for Meadowood’s exacting standards. The Charter Oak will have a butcher focusing on whole animal work, and will share a preservation specialist (think fermentation) with Meadowood.
There’s also a dessert cart, which looks proper AF.
Meadowood is so expensive. Can I afford to eat at the Charter Oak?
On the opening menu, starters are priced at $8 per portion, mids at $16, and mains at $24. (Remember, the idea is to order family-style, so multiply those numbers by the number of people in your party. Don’t really get it? I’m not totally sure I do, either.)
It isn’t cheap, but considering that dining room experiences at Meadowood start at $275 per person, with the full chef’s counter experience priced at $500 per person, the Charter Oak is definitely more accessible.
Here are the opening menus, courtesy of Eater SF:
• The Charter Oak [Official]